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India, Pakistan Note Modest Progress in Peace Talks  - 2004-09-06

India's foreign minister says modest progress was made in two days of peace talks with his Pakistani counterpart in New Delhi. The decades-old Kashmir dispute is hindering progress. The two days of talks between Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri did not produce major breakthroughs. But both countries pledged to move ahead with the peace dialogue that began in January.

At a news conference after the talks in New Delhi, Indian Foreign Minister Singh said the discussions helped the two sides build up trust, but it would take time to untangle their complex differences.

"Diplomacy provides hope, not salvation," he said. "Even modest progress is worthy of respect, we have made progress in the past two days."

The two ministers highlighted their key concerns. India's Mr. Singh says he expressed "serious" worries over renewed incursions by Muslim guerrillas from Pakistani territory into Indian Kashmir.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri says he raised the issue of alleged human rights abuses by the Indian Army in Indian Kashmir.

Mr. Kasuri also says durable peace in South Asia cannot not be achieved until the two countries settle their dispute over the divided Kashmir region.

"We are not imposing preconditions," he said. "But it is a matter of pure commonsense. It is a matter of historical experience that we want to push or we wish to put our relations on an even keel, we will have to tackle with the issue over Jammu and Kashmir."

But both sides say they will move ahead on normalizing relations on many other issues - such as transport and trade ties - even as they search for a solution to the Kashmir dispute.

Kashmir is divided between the two countries. India claims the entire territory. Pakistan wants mostly Muslim Kashmiris to decide their own future through a U.N. supervised vote.

The two ministers also announced several agreements that include future talks on establishing links between their coast guards and paramilitary forces, and on boosting rail links between the two countries.